Autism in Boys vs. Girls
Some research suggests that a child’s gender also plays a part in getting diagnosed. While boys are way more likely to have ASD, girls with ASD often go unnoticed. This is because there is a possibility that certain symptoms appear more in boys than they do in girls.
Boys more often present the telltale signs of ASD, such as repetitive behaviors or poor impulse control.
Societal expectations also play a role in the gender divide here. Girls are often expected to be quieter and more reserved, so noticing troubles with their communication skills will be more difficult. Girls with autism are also more likely to make friends than their counterparts, which makes identifying problems with socialization hard. Part of the reason girls can be so hard to diagnose early in life is that they are better at masking, or hiding, their symptoms. Even if they struggle to communicate or make friends, this is often not seen because young girls sometimes feel the need to mask themselves.
Due to feeling like they need to act “normal,” some girls don’t receive a diagnosis until late adolescence or even adulthood. Understanding how girls may present their symptoms as opposed to boys can help parents and caregivers to spot the signs earlier — that way they can get the treatment they need.
There is no cure for ASD but there are plenty of treatment options available. Treatment plans will vary based on the type of help a child needs since some children struggle more in certain areas than others. Children will also react differently to certain treatments and may need a specific approach or combination of techniques in order to receive the best care possible.
Getting treatment can help those with ASD improve their motor skills, their cognitive ability, daily living skills and can help reduce overall symptoms. No matter what your child needs help with, there is a form of treatment that can help. The important thing is getting treatment as early as possible, as very little is known about how to treat teenagers and older adults who received a late diagnosis.
Behavior and Communication Treatments
Behavior and treatment approaches have helped provide vital structure to children with ASD. There are multiple approaches to choose from, so you can find the right fit for your child.
Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA).
ABA is an incredibly popular method for treating children with ASD and is used by medical professionals and even in schools. This treatment reinforces positive behavior and discourages negative behavior. Data is collected on the child’s behavior and analyzed for improvement. Multiple forms of ABA exist as well and here are just a few:
- Discrete Trial Training (DTT) sets up a series of trials that the child must follow. These trials give the child step-by-step instructions for a desired behavior or response in a given situation. DTT is made as simple as possible and positive reinforcement is used as the primary motivator. In this situation, negative behaviors are ignored rather than directly discouraged.
- Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI) works best with very young children, at least younger than 5 years old. EIBI is highly structured, which is great for autistic children who desire a very organized routine. This method takes place one-on-one, usually with a professional or experienced individual, and positive behavior is rewarded in hopes to reduce negative behavior.
- Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) is used with children between 1 to 2 years old. This treatment focuses on play as a way to build social, language and cognitive skills which they may otherwise be lacking. This method is practiced in tandem with parents and therapists for the best outcome.
- Pivotal Response Training (PRT) focuses on increasing a few different skills: the motivation to learn, the ability to monitor and control their own behavior, and the ability to start communication with other people. When done correctly and if the child responds positively to this method, it is thought that PRT can greatly benefit a child’s behavioral development.
- Verbal Behavior Intervention (VBI) is a method that focuses on and highly encourages teaching verbal skills.
There are many other forms of ABA as well and one may work better for one child than another. Different forms of ABA can also be combined for the best outcome. The other behavior and communication treatments include:
- Occupational therapy
- Assistive technology
- Social skills training
- Speech therapy
These treatments can be done at the same time as ABA therapy as part of a well-rounded treatment plan, helping your child develop multiple skills at once.
No medications exist that can cure ASD or treat the main symptoms, but there are medications that can help children improve their overall function. Children with ASD can use medications to help them focus, treat depression or anxiety, or reduce or eliminate seizures.
However, it is important to never start medication until you’ve consulted your doctor. Different prescription drugs will affect people differently and in many cases, finding the right medication may take a bit of trial and error before finding one that works. Always monitor a child when they are taking medication to see if symptoms are improving and how it may be affecting them.
Aside from prescription drugs, other types of complementary or alternative medicines exist for the treatment of ASD. Some parents turn to special diets, supplements or chelation (removal of heavy metals) as a way to relieve symptoms.
Very little evidence exists regarding the effectiveness of these treatments. In fact, some studies have even found some of these treatments, such as chelation, to be doing more harm than good. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is even warning parents against using treatments like chelation since significant health risks exist. Nearly 10 percent of parents are using a dangerous alternative treatment method.
Before moving forward with any treatment, always be sure to check with your doctor to be sure that what you are doing is safe.